Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Christmas Pressies for Writers

Yes, I know it's already the 9th December, and you're probably so organised you have all of your shopping done already...
...or you could be like the rest of us who are thinking "I really need to get the present shopping started!" and frantically scratching your head at what to get everyone.

Well, I am here to help!  For the writers in your family at least.  (For everyone else go for socks.  Everyone loves socks.  Well... I love socks.)

So without further ado, here's your list of great gift ideas for the writer in your life!

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Half Full

One of the fun things about writing is to set yourself challenges that may not be your usual style.

I entered the Nikon European Film Festival this year with a script I wrote called "Half Full".  The theme of the festival is "A Different Perspective".  Once I'd read that theme this conversation popped into my head, and so we spent a couple of days filming, and a few more days editing and sent off our submission.

You can check out the finished film here, and if you like it, give us a vote! :)

I'm proud of the way it turned out - I like the script and I think the film is not at all bad considering there were only three of us making it!  (Hence me ending up acting in it - that was something out of my comfort zone, but I gave it my best shot!)

Enjoy!

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

November and Novels

November is the novel writing month - and whenever it comes around it seems I've always just finished a project (so yay for that!) and start another saying "perhaps this year I'll do that novel writing in a month thing"... and I of course get well carried away into a huge project that will not be finished by next week.

But I guess it's a good thing to get started on new things anyway.

In other news, my fantasy novel got proofread, spell-checked and packaged up to send to a publisher... and yesterday I got my first rejection postcard.  So ok, it would have been amazing to get a publisher on the first try, and I didn't expect it.  But I did hope a bit.

Still half of this game is finding the right person for the story, so away it's gone again, and we'll see how this one goes.

In the meantime, I've been thinking about blogging and decided that one of the problems of having a writing blog is that there just isn't that much to say about writing.  Sure I could repeat what other writers have already said about how to write, or lecture you on the rules of grammar (my proofreaders would probably find that funny, at least!) but when it comes down to it writing is mostly: 1) Thinking about stuff.  2) Typing.

As for talking about what I've written, well I will be doing that when it's ready to see, but until then there doesn't seem much point in building up excitement for something that you can't get yet, else everyone will have probably forgotten about it anyway by the time you can get it.

So instead I'll just put up doodles or something.  Enjoy.


Wednesday, 27 August 2014

A Wild Book Appears



It is weird seeing your book printed out for the first time.  You know you’ve written a lot of words, but to see the chunk of paper that it takes up really brings it home.

You hold it, hefting its weight and think “finally, it’s done.”

But of course, it’s not done.  It’s nowhere near done.

At this point I’d like to thank to my test readers, who each took away a small tree’s worth of paper and spent their free time reading those words that I’ve written.  Your feedback has been great – and I’ve been happy to hear that you all enjoyed the book despite those spelling and grammatical errors which I managed to read over a hundred times and not spot.

I’ve had the recent task of going through that feedback – correcting those spellings, removing those extra commas… (well some of them – there is an ongoing debate about the use of the Oxford comma!) and in some cases rewriting scenes to add a little more depth or clarity.

Some of it has been fun (some typos created some very unintentionally funny sentences), some has been frustrating (we all have days where we just can’t think of a different way to phrase something), but overall it has been rewarding to see the story having the rough edges knocked off.

Not much more work to do before I try my hand at sending it out to publishers.  It’s hard to know when it’s ready, because as the saying goes “A work of art is never finished, only abandoned.” 
It’s scary, but I guess I’ll just have to send it and see what happens.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Women Destroy Science Fiction

I stumbled upon this announcement for a special edition of LIGHTSPEED featuring women who write Sci-Fi.  Or rather, destroy it.  Intriguing!

I have always loved Sci-Fi.  I can’t even remember the first time I watched Star Wars, because I was so young.  I grew up on Star Trek: the Next Generation, Buck Rogers re-runs, Thundercats, Ulysses 31… the list goes on.  At the same time I was playing video games, which quite often put me in the pilot seat of a Sci-Fi adventure.  I wanted my own lightsaber and X-Wing.  (I have them after a fashion now, so yay me!)

I’d like to say that when I wrote The Eye of theBeholder, I just wrote it and didn’t have any doubts about how it would be received based on my gender, but sadly that just isn’t true.  I can’t remember where I heard it, but I was vaguely aware of the idea that a Science Fiction book with a woman’s name on the cover would be more easily dismissed than if it had a man’s name on.

For a very short while I pondered about publishing under a male pen name.

There is a famous author from my home town you may have heard, of called George Eliot.  There is a statue of her in the town centre.  Yep, you read that right; her.  George’s real name was Mary Anne Evans.  She didn’t publish her work under that name for fear that it wouldn’t be taken seriously. 
Her most famous book is probably Middlemarch; published in 1872, and now recognised as “one of the greatest novels of the English language.”

1872.

That is over one hundred and forty years ago.

One hundred and forty years, and I had the same fear.  Wow.

I decided to go with my real feminine name (No one is going to mistake a “Sarah” for a guy like you might with a “Sam” or an “Ash”) for several reasons, but the primary one was that I wanted people to know a woman could write Sci-Fi.  It wouldn’t be fair for people to read the stories, enjoy them, and then credit them to a guy and perpetuate the myth that woman don’t write good Sci-Fi.  Thus far, I’m not aware of anyone passing up my book because of the name on the cover, but then I wouldn’t know if they did!

Likewise, I want girls to be able to read Sci-Fi, to see that it is an okay and normal thing for a girl to do.  I’ve come up against that myth far more:  People telling others my book is “for boys” because of the Science Fiction themes in it.  There are male characters in my stories, but there are also female characters, and there is even one story that features a spaceship as the main “character”!
I hope that if a girl sees a female name on the cover of the book, they will realise that women are equally allowed to enjoy the genre; it’s not an entirely male dominated thing.

How did the George Eliot story end?  Well, she admitted to being the novelist that the pubic had become so interested in; and she didn’t lose her fanbase because of it.  Would she have had the same initial success if they had known she was a woman from the start, or would they have passed her books over in search of a “proper” story merely because of the name?  No one can say.

Well, I’ve got a short story on the go to submit to this edition of LIGHTSPEED.  I don’t know if I’ll be lucky enough to get published or not.  I hope there will be plenty of women submitting their stories, even if that means a lot of competition! ;) At the end of it all, it’s about having fun and enjoying the genre we love.  It’s okay for people not to like the stories, as long as they do so on the basis of the writing, not on the irrelevant fact that the person writing it is female.

So for men and women around the globe who love good Sci-Fi, I’d ask you to check out this Kickstarter and offer your support, either monetarily or with a Share, so we women can destroy what Sci-Fi is seen to be, and join in on what Sci-Fi is all about; exploration, discovery and adventure!

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Seeping Massacre - Follow Up

I thought it would be interesting to write a follow up and share the feedback I got from that story.  So often you enter a competition and never know what the people judging your work thought of it.  I also thought I'd write a little about the story, and how the intent and the feedback aligned.

 WHAT THE JUDGE(S) LIKED ABOUT YOUR STORY

The short sentences and clipped writing made the story feel more frantic and all the actions more rushed. The descriptive writing used for the music playing almost makes the reader able to hear and feel it pulsing through the page.

The protagonist is engaging and evokes much empathy. Sensory details are effective. The ending is unexpected.

Nice comments to hear - I am glad that that I managed to convey the feeling I was going for!

WHAT THE JUDGES FEEL NEEDS WORK

Who is the protagonist? Give a few descriptions, like how big or tall they are as it helps or hinders them fight through the crowd, etc.

It's written in the second person - You are the protagonist in this story! :)  I knew that writing in the second person would be a gamble, as it's fairly unused.  Most stories are first or third person.  Still I am surprised that the "you" didn't give it away! ;)

For more impact, it could seem as though pulling the breaker solves the problem, but then the band starts playing again. The gargoyle she touches could animate for an added fright. I think the story would be more compelling written in first person.

I think that this could work for added impact - but unfortunately I don't think it would have fitted within the word limit without losing something else.  Without a word limit, it could certainly be expanded on.
It's funny in this comment that again, writing in the second person wasn't liked, however the judge refers to the protagonist as "she"; perhaps they did read it as them performing the actions?  Would they have found it as creepy if they were reading about someone else doing these things?

Overall I was happy with this story; I've never tried to write in the horror genre before, but it was good fun.  

I took a gamble with the second person narrative, as it is uncommonly used in literature, and therefore unfamiliar to readers.
Despite the judges not liking it, I don't think I would change it to first (or third) person if I were to do it again, because I feel that it is far more unsettling for you to take the place of the protagonist and be dragged along for a ride beyond your control than to read about someone else taking that journey.

I got 8 points for this effort, which was fairly high up the rankings, so I was very happy with that!

Unfortunately not enough to get through to the next round, but I finished 13th overall in my group, so I think I didn't do that badly!

It's certainly been a challenge and I have learned more about writing, keeping things concise (word limits really do help you to cut out any extraneous text!) and about potential audiences differences in taste.  :)  
It's also given me a few ideas for short stories going forward... perhaps I shall write some more soon!



Friday, 27 December 2013

Seeping Massacre



 Back in September I saw a Flash Fiction Challenge.  The rules were that you would be assigned a genre, location and an item, and you would have 48 hours to write a story of no more than 1000 words.  I signed up!

This is the second story that I wrote for that challenge.
Genre:  Horror
Location: An Outdoor Music Concert
Item: Animal Crackers


Please note:  This is a horror story.  It has some things in it that people may find disturbing, so please use your judgement about who it is suitable for.  (I'd probably rate it at about a 15 if it was a movie.)


 Seeping Massacre

“Jesus!  Put them away before somebody sees!” Chris frantically shoves your outstretched hand away.  You shrug and drop the earplugs back into your pocket.  Yours are already in your ears, filtering the sound, much to Chris’s despair.
Everyone around you is dressed in black, some have painted faces.  Even Chris is wearing the band hoody (black, of course), with the scarlet blood-dripping logo emblazoned across the back.

No one told you there would be a dress code. 

“Come on, let’s try and get a good spot.”  Chris turns across the field to where the crowd is already thick watching the support act.  You follow, trying not to lose sight of him among the heave.
 
Finally he stops and shouts something at you, but you can’t make it out over the rumble of the speakers, so you just nod.  He shoves a box of Animal Crackers into your hands.  Festival food?  Well, better than the greasy hotdogs you expected.

The night air is thick with the smell of sweat and mud.

The support finishes and takes a bow.  You clap, as best you can while holding a box of crackers.  The stage lights dim.  Shadows move across it rearranging props and instruments.

A single flame appears. 

The screaming of the crowd goes up by at least an octave.  Chris jumps up and down waving and hollering.  You wait politely, munching on the sweet Animal Crackers.  Crunch.
Suddenly the lights blast on and four mildly-overweight men run onto the stage wearing grotesque masks of face paint and fake blood.

HAIL SATAN!” the lead singer bellows into the mic, to thunderous approval from the crowd.  You chuckle, wondering how much the fans buy into this stuff.
“We are THE SEEPING MASSACRE!”
The drummer blasts the bass pedals, the guitarist slams a discordant note, the ground trembles as they growl out their first song of the evening.
There is barely a break before they move onto the second – or at least, you think it’s the second song.  It could be the first one again.

You glance at Chris; he seems to be enjoying it... but wait.  Blood; oozing from Chris’s ears.  He doesn’t seem to notice.  You try to point it out to him but he just frowns at you.
“WHAT?  I CAN’T HEAR YOU.”
You look around for help; but a wet splash draws your attention.  A man nearby, headbanging, blood flicking in droplets as he thrashes to the song.
Everywhere you look the dark trickles are running down their jaws, dripping from their chins…
You reach to your own ears.  The soft foam of the earplugs is reassuring, there is no blood seeping through them.  But what if you are bleeding, too, and the plugs are just holding it in?

You scrabble in your pocket for the spare earplugs, and try to push them into Chris’s ears, but he pushes you away, annoyed.  Your fingers come away slick and sticky with his blood.  The smell of iron is getting stronger…

You know you have to stop the music.

You start to push your way through the crowd towards the stage.  Chris grabs at your shirt to pull you back, but you break away.  You reach the mosh pit; the ground churned so badly you slip and slide through mud and blood trying to reach the front.

The stage is awash with flames: sickly green, purple-red.  The music begins to hurt your ears, despite the earplugs.  You try to get over the barriers; a security guard forces you back.  Apparently the crowd think that’s a good idea though, as others start to push forward, and suddenly the fence is down and you’re propelled through.

You push and kick your way out; the security guards are getting the throng under control, but you don’t want to get onto the stage.  You want to get behind it.

Crew sit in a mess of cables, blood dripping from their eyes and ears and noses.  They don’t pay much attention to you; you’re not dressed in black like the fans, and you’re wearing earplugs.  They may not know who you are, but clearly you belong backstage.  The main breaker is within reach.  It’s stiff and locks down with a clunk.

The stage lights shut off, and the speakers power down; but the band plays on and the music continues, as loud as ever, rumbling through the ground.

How?

You run up the stage stairs to be confronted by flames – flames you thought were just pyrotechnics- still leaping around as if driven on by some cursed magic.  Shadows in the shape of horned and winged creatures surge beyond the ground, pushing upwards, warping the wooden boards of the stage - trying to break through.

You run up to the singer, and shout, as loud as you can, to stop the concert.  He looks at you, a cruel smile forming on his lips, as he continues to intone harsh syllables.

You realise that the band knows exactly what they’re doing.  They will kill everyone, everyone, unless you stop them.  You make a grab for the microphone.  The singer pushes you away.  You try to wrestle for control.  Security guards, their faces almost obscured by blood are rushing towards you.  You are pushed away again, and as you stumble your hand closes around a stage prop; a gargoyle.  It’s heavy. 

You have to stop them.

The singer’s head cracks open with a crunch that you feel rather than hear.  Blood pours across the floor, drips through it, softens it.  The barrier breaks.
Demons of every size and shape clamber out of the hole, fly into the night, leap down into the crowd.  One of them gives you a mock bow before laughing and flying away.

The flames vanish.  The stage lights come back on.  Strong hands grab your arms.

Murderer!  The cry comes from below, and the crowd takes it up, and you realise.

They couldn’t see the demons.

They can only see you.  The killer that let them in.